Two great concerts, and a disco, were held as the finale to the Galiwin’ku Healthy Lifestyle Festival on Elcho Island, Gurrumul’s home, in early October. The Foundation was delighted to help make it happen and see a huge turnout of all ages. This was really the first chance for the community to come together and enjoy their music and culture since before the Cyclones devastated the Island earlier in 2015.
The Cyclones Lam/Nathan Recovery Concert which we were working on changed focus and size over time to become two solid nights of concerts as a tribute to the late Dr Gumbula. He was a highly respected and well-known Yolngu elder and musician from the pioneering Soft Sands Band. Dr Gumbula was also a leading authority on major collections of material culture from Arnhem Land and had held senior research and advisory positions at both Sydney and Melbourne Universities.
The formal tribute commenced as the family of Dr Gumbula led a procession to the stage, followed by speeches, bungul (traditional dances) and a special performance of his most famous song ‘Djiliwirri’.
Soft Sands had inspired a younger generation of famous musicians like Yothu Yindi, Warumpi lead singer GR Burarrwanga and Gurrumul. Though their numbers have diminished they performed at the concerts with other legendary contemporary music pioneers like Dick Munungu. Four Elcho bands joined others from NE Arnhem Land communities who travelled hundreds of kilometres to perform in tribute. Well-known groups like Yilila from Numbulwar, Wirrinyga from Milingimbi, musicians from Ramingining and the younger Barra from Yirrkala all performed over two long nights. Djuki Mala (Chooky Dancers) along with many other young dance groups performed to mark their respect.
Both nights were programmed and directed by senior Galiwin’ku Festival Committee members and presented by local MCs in Yolngu Matha. For the first time some younger people stepped up to share the MC role, and others worked during the week with the production team.
Many thanks to the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation in partnership with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal for funding the concerts along with support from Red Cross, Miwatj Health, Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corp. and many other local organisations.